in his intellectual nature. Thus, for Aquinas, the identity of the human person lies in the interplay of both being made in the image of God and realizing this image within him as he both grows in virtue and receives divine grace to become more like Christ. Secondly, Aquinas gives answer to the relationship of divine and human agency. In the modern narrative, divine agency amounts only to the “watchmaker God,” impersonal and removed from creation. This view of the universe’s complete autonomy was brought to its extreme in postmodernity’s nascency, where “God is dead.” Yet for Aquinas, God is “ipsum esse subsistens” – creation cannot be but wedded to the creator, for while all things partake in being, they partake in their creator who is “I AM.” Creation, therefore, is not simply a one-time event, but an ongoing act. By affirming God’s creative act, Aquinas reveals that God is not aloof to God’s work, as posited by modernity, but involved in every aspect of it. Yet God’s nearness to his creation goes further. He not only weds himself to creation through sustaining all things in existence, but “becomes one flesh” with it in the hypostatic union. Thus, countering modernity’s deist narrative of divine agency, Aquinas upholds the nearness of the creator to his creation through the Incarnation. And countering the postmodern claim of God’s death, Aquinas shows forth that indeed God did die – upon the Cross – yet he also rose from the dead and offers this new life to all who ask for it. Thus, once more, Aquinas brings us face to face with the savior. With regard to human agency, moreover, both modernity and postmodernity agree that man is
autonomous, independent and set to bring about his own redemption through work. For Aquinas, however, man is fundamentally dependent, for man is fundamentally a creature. Yet this dependence on divine agency does not annihilate human agency; rather, divine and creaturely agency cooperate. With regard to living creation at large, God invites creaturely agency to partake in its own creation through evolutionary speciation. With regard to the human person, God fashions man as a creature not yet finished, inviting him to participate in his own completion through intellection and love. This is particularly seen in his plan of salvation, for, as Augustine stated, “God did not will to save us without us.” Thus, Aquinas would say that the inclination of modern and postmodern man toward redemption through human agency, while surely disordered, does not have to be expunged completely. Instead, it must be conformed to the divine will that the two may act together. Paradoxically, this conformity does not restrain man, but gives rise to the fullness of freedom. Sanctity, therefore, is not resultant of human achievement, but the meeting of human weakness and divine grace. By rooting his treatment of the human person within man’s primary relationship with the creator, Aquinas gives the narrative of the Fall and original sin its proper footing, out of which recognition of the savior is made possible. Through addressing human identity and agency from within the creator-creature relationship, he serves as spiritual guide, inviting us to see the work of the savior in the world.
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